From a turret to tomorrow

Technology isn’t about today.

It’s about the next big thing and what’s to come.

The challenge is having the vision to recognize where technology is going and—more importantly—being willing to invest time, money, effort into something that is only an idea, a few words or numbers on a paper.

Since it first offered classes in 2000, the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering has built its reputation on seeing into the future and providing its students with the tools that are needed to bring innovation into reality. The school was founded thanks to the foresight to see where the world was headed and how Indiana University could take a leadership role in a field that was still going through some growing pains but would affect the lives of everyone on the planet.

As it heads into its third decade, the Luddy School has become one of the largest schools on the IU campus, and with a growing footprint of facilities, a world-renowned group of faculty, and students and alumni who change the world, its impact is being felt daily. It has morphed from the School of Informatics to the School of Informatics and Computing to the School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering, to the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering, always showing a willingness to adapt to an ever-changing environment to best serve its students.

As the Luddy School celebrates its 20th anniversary, we reflect on where we’ve been and how the vision of a handful has led IU down the path to tomorrow.

Mike Dunn had a problem.

The acting dean of the School of Informatics, the first new school to be established at Indiana University in a quarter century, sat in his office at Memorial Hall, a 75-year-old former women’s dormitory on the southern edge of campus. Located in one of the turrets of Agnes Wells Hall, Dunn’s office overlooked some trees that were sprouting their first leaves of the spring of 2000, and he had been asked to meet with then-IU chief financial officer Judy Palmer. Palmer wanted their administrative assistants to set up the meeting, but Dunn couldn’t comply with that request because he didn’t have an administrative assistant.

In fact, the new dean of a school dedicated to technology didn’t even have a computer, and he wasn’t technically allowed to order one.

“The only way you could buy a computer was to do it online via a computer that was registered to the unit,” Dunn says. “That was IU’s policy. But I didn’t have a computer registered to the unit that I could use to buy a computer. I wasn’t sure what to do.”

He called then-IU vice president for information technology Michael McRobbie for advice, and the future IU president arranged for the School of Informatics to acquire its first piece of equipment.

“There was a lot of work to do, but a lot of people were deeply dedicated to making it work,” Dunn says. “We all knew it had a bright future if we could sell our vision to those around us.”

Then-IU president Myles Brand first planted the seed that would grow into the Luddy School. During his State of the University speech in September 1997, Brand challenged Indiana University to take the next step in institutional academic excellence by creating a “plan for the development of information technology at IU that will enable the university to become a leader in absolute terms in its use and application.”

There was a lot of work to do, but a lot of people were deeply dedicated to making it work

Michael Dunn - IU's first Dean of Informatics